British Army, German tanks. London might not like it, but you have to buy Leopard 2s


The British Army needs main battle tanks-wrong. In reality, he has two options. Rebuild some of the approximately 220 aging and obsolete Challenger 2s. Or buy German.

The best choice is clear, according to an analysis. German tanks would enter service faster and, in the long run, be cheaper than British tanks, wrote analysts Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds. a new study for the Royal United Services Institute in London.

In the early 2000s, the military purchased 424 Challenger 2 tanks from manufacturer Vickers Defense Systems. At the same time, the service bought all the spare parts it needed. That and the lack of large export customers – Oman bought 38 of the tanks – meant that Vickers had no reason to keep the production line going.

The cold production line effectively orphaned the Challenger 2 fleet. There was no effective way for the military to modernize the 72-ton four-person tank. As the Challenger 2s became more and more obsolete, the military steadily reduced force levels until only half the vehicles remained.

Today, the Challenger 2 with its 120-millimeter rifled gun and old electronics is a NATO outlier. The American M-1A2 and Leopard 2 variants that Germany has sold to no less than 15 NATO and Allied armies feature the latest computers and networking equipment as well as smooth-bore cannons with modern ammunition.

“The CR2 has reached the end of the road,” wrote Watling and Reynolds. “If the UK wants to keep MBT capability, it needs to modernize its fleet.”

As a matter of principle, the United States does not export the latest version of the M-1. This leaves the Leopard 2 as the only realistic alternative to the Challenger 3, a totally rebuilt Challenger 2 that the British military has been considering for a few years now.

The Leopard 2 is the right tank, according to Watling and Reynolds. “If the UK wants competitive armor capability by 2040, the Leopard 2 is unequivocally the safest option and in the long run probably the cheapest option.”

“Buying Leopard 2 would come at a much higher initial cost than pursuing a CR3,” Watling and Reynolds wrote. “However, the plentiful supply of aftermarket parts and the increased reliability of a highly refined design mean the Leopard 2 should be less expensive than a CR3 over the life of the vehicle.”

“The vehicles could also be put into service very quickly, since the production line is open and a number of Leopard 2s are available for purchase, which makes the entry into service date of 2025 more realistic”, Watling and Reynolds added.

The Leopard 2 is less risky for the UK as its existing market for spares, upgrades and other media is huge. British leopards are said to be only a small part of a global fleet of thousands of vehicles. London would only need to order 150 Leopard 2s to make local production commercially viable.

According to Watling and Reynolds’ estimates, the UK government would need to order 300 Challenger 3s – possibly for around $ 2.7 billion – for the manufacturer to make a profit. This is more tanks than the British Army plans to maintain, even in the best of circumstances.

The switch to Leopard 2 could of course come at a cost. “What the UK would lose with Leopard 2 is the generation of manufacturing and intellectual property expertise. It should not be disproportionate. As a first step, KMW, the maker of Leopard 2, announced that it would establish a factory in the UK and integrate UK components through a UK company, which will be able to develop further technical innovations as have made other international users.

Industrial problems should not deter London from purchasing the only tank capable of keeping the British army in the heavy armored sector. Challenger 3 would be “a costly disaster, leaving the British Army with a small number of uncompetitive vehicles, delivered late, at inflated prices”.

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